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Pillay Alarmed by Inter-communal Violence in Sri Lanka

GENEVA, Jun 16 2014 (IPS) - The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay Monday expressed “alarm” at the growing inter-communal violence in Sri Lanka.

According to reports from Colombo, hundreds of Sinhala Buddhist nationalists, led by rabble-rousing monks, have attacked mosques and Muslims in two towns in south-western Sri Lanka

At least two, or possibly three, people have reportedly been killed and scores injured.

The violence erupted Sunday in the town of Aluthgama following a large rally by the Buddhist group Bodu Bala Sena (BBS) to protest an alleged assault a few days earlier by a Muslim youth against a visiting monk at the local temple.

After the rally, violence erupted on both sides as the BBS and supporters moved in procession through Muslim neighbourhoods, allegedly chanting anti-Muslim slogans, according to a UN press release.

Homes, shops and mosques were reportedly attacked and some set ablaze. Despite a curfew and deployment of approximately 1,200 police, violence apparently continued into the night.

“The Government must urgently do everything it can to arrest this violence, curb the incitement and hate speech which is driving it, and protect all religious minorities,” the High Commissioner said.

“I am very concerned this violence could spread to Muslim communities in other parts of the country,” Pillay continued.

“The authorities must immediately bring the perpetrators of such attacks to book and make it clear to the religious leadership on both sides, and to political parties and the general public, that there is no place for inflammatory rhetoric and incitement to violence.”

“At the same time, the security forces must use appropriate measures to contain the situation and ensure this tragic situation is not compounded by any excessive use of force,” she added.

During her visit to Sri Lanka in August 2013, and in her subsequent reports to the Human Rights Council, the High Commissioner warned about the rising level of attacks against religious minorities and the incitement of violence by Sinhala Buddhist nationalist groups.

The Government had promised amendments to enhance existing provisions of the Penal Code and ICCPR Act with regard to hate speech, but these have yet to be adopted.

The Human Rights Council in March 2014 expressed its alarm at the significant surge in attacks against members of religious minority groups in Sri Lanka, including Hindus, Muslims and Christians.

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